Monthly Archives: June 2019

Easy Riding

` Friday June 7th

We leave Passau on a bike path alongside a busy road and by midday we arrive at the Schlogen loop. When the river was forming it came up against a hard granite wall which it was unable to erode and so was forced to double back on itself. We stay at the Donauschlinge hotel at the apex of the loop.

River cruise ship at dusk
The ferry serving our Schlogen hotel

Sitting on the hotel’s broad deck one can see all the river traffic approaching, rounding the 90 degree bend and departing. That night I am awoken by a howling east wind and on looking out see one of the longest crocodile-like hotel boats gingerly rounding the loop; they must be difficult to steer under such conditions. The next morning dawns clear and calm as though nothing happened a few hours earlier.

Saturday June 8th

The day starts with a large buffet style breakfast and then a short ferry crossing to the north bank. A kilometer further we take another ferry back to the south bank as we cannot pass through the nature reserve on the north side, and the boat that bypasses it, we learn, won’t leave for an hour and one-half. The only sign of the storm are innumerable small branches littering the path. For the first time on this trip we see a lot of fishermen on the banks. They are well set up with cosy tents equipped with tables, chairs and small stoves. None, though, appear to be catching anything so I suppose its just a pleasant way to spend a weekend. There is a lot more bicycle traffic than we have seen to date. Most people are on Ebikes and there are charging stations at regular intervals. We stop for a coffee break at 10 and to my surprise the table of cyclists next to us are drinking large tankards of beer. I am wobbly enough without consuming alchohol but this lot jump on their bikes with aplomb and peddle off … to the next beer garden I suppose! On our way to Linz we make a detour to visit a Cistercian monastery and church in Wilhering. The Cistercian order is quite austere and the few Cistercian monasteries and churches I have visited in France and Italy were beautiful in their simplicity of Romanesque architecture and lack of ornamentation. David opens the door to the church and I am quite speechless and succumb almost immediately to vertigo! The whole church … walls, ceilings, everywhere are decorated in a rococo Baroque style gone mad. Really I cannot stand it and have to leave. Next to the entrance to the church is a small room with a whitewashed vaulted ceiling and whitewashed walls whose sole ornament is a simple cross. I can only assume the monks come here to recuperate after visiting their church.

Wilhering abbey church
Ceiling of Cistercian church
White chapel in Cistertian church

We arrive in Linz a little later. David has been here 25 years ago and has been quite disparaging about the city but today it is very different, no cars in the center, coffeeshops and young people everywhere and expensive looking shops. We eat wonderfully well in the Crocodil Metro and I am sorry that we haven’t left more time to explore the city.

Stiegelbräu brew pub, Linz
Family dinner at Krokodil Restaurant, with living plant curtains
Linz cafe with wine bottle chandelier

Sunday June 9th

Early Sunday morning and no traffic in the city … I can actually ride my bike from our hotel, over the bridge and onto the bike path without getting off! It’s a shaded path with wide green areas on either side where walkers are letting their dogs run free and runners, cyclists and roller bladers are on the path … everyone like us taking advantage of the cool morning. Later that morning we reach a town and I dismount as there is a lot of traffic.

Typical town along the Austrian Danube

A German woman cuts in front of me, slide slips on the curb and crashes onto the pavement, landing with her bike on top of her. « Allés ist gut! » she keeps saying as I try to help. She doesn’t look particularly « gut », blood is everywhere, and I am thankful when her husband appears. Rather shaken I join David further up the road, he has ridden through the town, with my policy of dismounting in traffic further enforced. The rest of the ride to Grein, a very pretty town on the banks of the river, is without further incident.

Bikers cafe along the north bank path to Grein
Our waitress in a Grein cafe

Monday 11th June

The morning starts with a ferry crossing to the south bank.

In Grein, bicycle ferry arriving (to go to south bank bike path)
On bicycle ferry, leaving Grein

As we ride along the shaded road twenty or so tractors pass by festooned with ribbons and flags … there must be a tractor festival somewhere. It’s an easy ride, mercifully mostly in shade, and by midday we arrive at Weitenegg where we will spend the night at a gasthaus next to the river. The heat is increasing and I am thankful David decided to stop here and to take a taxi to Melk and its famous monastery on the other bank. This is a must visit place on the river boat hotels’ itinerary and the courtyard is swarming with tourists. Monks no longer live here and the ticket seller tells us that every cent made from the visitors is ploughed back into the upkeep of the monastery and its buildings. Indeed it sparkles, the exhibits in the museum are beautifully displayed and visitors follow a marked route that prevents too much crowding. The church is ornate, but not overly so and not vertigo inducing! Chairs and music stands are being set up and apparently many concerts are held here throughout the year.

Abbey church, Melk
Library, Melk Abbey
I would regret if I had not been here – Maria Theresa 1743
View of Melk from abbey

After the visit to the church we head to the garden and its pavilion for much needed bottles of water.

Pavilion café
Directions how to use the toilet, Melk Abbey Pavilion ladies room

Back at the gasthaus we eat our first schnitzels of the trip washed down by a couple of pints of a local Pilsner. I am not much of a beer drinker but wine is out of the question in this heat.

Tuesday 12th June

At breakfast beside a doorway we notice a series of plaques that show the high water marks of the Danube floods since 1899. The last major flood which comes up to my nose was in 2013. The owner who speaks good English tells us that the gästhaus has been in her family for four generations. »The floods are terrible » she says. « We have to move everything from this floor … all the dining room furniture, all the kitchen stuff, everything! » And looking at how much there is it must have taken a long time to get everything upstairs. She tells us that the walls are painted with a whitewash that does not allow the water to be trapped and thereby causing mold. « We can cope with a flood every ten years, but more frequently … » she shakes her head.

Highly decorated dining room of our Melk guest house
Tessa and the Danube flood levels at our guest house
Before the gästhaus, morning check of bikes

Today’s ride takes us through the picturesque wine country of the Wachau region.

Bike path through a wine village
Vineyard and village, Wachau wine region

We pass the castle in Dürnstein where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned for offending Leopold the Virtuous during the Crusades, then pedal through Stein, a lovely medieval town that adjoins Krems. Before attempting to find our hotel we stop at the new Karikatur Museum on the outskirts of the town. It is the only museum in Austria that exhibits satirical art and the work of the featured artist, Manfred Deix, is very powerful.

Karikatur Museum: What might have been.
At the Karikatur Museum, Krems
Karikatur Museum restaurant

Next door is the museum’s restaurant, thankfully air conditioned as today is the hottest day yet, and we enjoy a good lunch and several bottles of water. David was bitten by an insect a few days earlier and his arm is still swollen. He stops at a pharmacy to buy some ointment but the pharmacist suggests that he visit the only doctor in town who is seeing patients that day. So much of our afternoon is spent sitting in a waiting room along with a screaming child, a couple of heavily tattooed overweight young women and several elderly people. When eventually we see the doctor she says the bite is not serious and writes a prescription for an ointment that David was going to buy in the first place! I am more than thankful when we finally get to the gasthaus where we are staying! The evening cools a little and we walk back into the old town to an Austrian restaurant. The couple at the adjoining table strike up a conversation in good English. He is an oncologist specializing in radiation treatment. « In Krems we have the most up to date equipment. It cost several million euros. Would a town of similar size (25,000) in USA have such equipment? I don’t think so! » He says proudly and we have to agree. He is also a cyclist and during the summer months rides everyday. « In winter, » he laments, « I become pregnant as the weather is too bad to ride a bike! » His wife, a high school teacher, is much more interested in music than in cycling and describes how almost every town in the country hosts open-air concerts throughout the summer and how they will frequently spend a weekend in another part of Austria just to attend a particular concert or opera. We return late to our hotel.

The Golden Angel, our guest house in Krems

David writing:

We have arrived in Vienna! A Greek dinner just up the street to celebrate. Bikes are being boxed by a nearby shop. In four days we are in Magagnosc. An air conditioned room, thank God, as the temperatures keep rising! Tessa has a list of museum exhibitions and I will revisit Charlemagne’s regalia, now 1200 years old. We will see the Spanish Riding School’s famous horse show.

If I were writing yesterday, I would have lauded the Austrian bike paths. The German ones were a helter-skelter linkage of local bike paths, often improvised to avoid new construction; in Austria they were perfectly signed everywhere, always well paved, a major tourist attraction. So I would have said yesterday. The last stage was anything but. There was not a single sign for leaving Krems, but with map and questions we eventually. Found the path. Next we had to ride on an entirely torn up 3 km gravel and stone section (presumably to be a new road). Much later the bike path had been entirely rerouted, thankfully with small signs saying Eurovelo 6 “Umleitung” (Detour).

Approaching Tulin by a detour our map was unhelpful, but there were scattered roadside maps with red dots for our locations. Nonetheless we became lost in a park. We waved down an older rider who spoke no English and asked the way to the railway station. (Why, you might wonder, were we taking the train for the last 40 kilometers?: 95 degrees with 20 mph headwinds gusting to 30.) “Which train line?,” he asked. And after no response from my part, “The Franz Joseph Railway?” “Ja”. He indicated “follow me”, and thank goodness again, because it took 15 minutes and we would have taken hours to find it by ourselves. Leaving us at the ticket machine inside a tunnel, he rode off, barely accepting thanks.

Tessa’s summary:

As there were many more sections on gravel paths particularly in Germany the riding was harder. Slightly wider tires would have made me feel more secure. However I enjoyed the first week in Germany enormously; there were fewer cyclists (most tours start from Passau) and the countryside was beautiful. And, as in previous years, everyone we encountered along the way whether we were lost or not was helpful and friendly. I am proud we made it to Vienna without serious incident … it was a long way to cycle in such hot weather!

David’s summary:

Looking back, because of the German climate data and the forecast I carried no summer shirts. We carried extensive rain gear but it never rained. We know now that in June the further east one goes, the hotter and less rainy the weather becomes. And also, while rainy weather brings westerlies, fair weather brings winds from the east or southeast. Thus we faced unexpected headwinds, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, on all but two of our riding days.

This year we rode 729 kilometers and covered 77 more by boat and train, a total of 846 (about 510 miles). Since we set out, three riding years ago, from the Atlantic Ocean, we have covered 2,393 kms (1,426 miles). We are more than half-way from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, but what the future brings remains to be seen. Stay tuned next year.

Bucolic lanes and a hellish highway

Tessa here:

Wednesday June 5th

We have an early breakfast along with numerous businessmen dressed in what appears to be a de rigueur uniform of jeans and and open neck shirts. Only the Asian men are wearing suits. There are many international corporations based in Regensburg most connected with the auto industry as well as a burgeoning hi-tech hub. The first Amazon distribution center in Europe is here. It’s a relief to get back beside the Danube. We stop at a small cafe to buy water and the elderly owner is so delighted to have customers that he joins us. He is even more delighted to notice that David has had a knee operation as he has had two, the last one still causing trouble; in broken English he says his prosthetic is British.

New knees

We leave the river and bike endless kilomètres across open farmland. By midday it is really hot, the forecast predicted temperatures over 90F, so it is with relief in a village we see a small tent-like pavilion in a garden with a sign reading “Fahrrad Oasis” (Bike Oasis). A pleasant lady serves us two much needed bottles of water and a cup of soup each … she must do good business with cyclists and indeed as we leave a large group arrives. Thunderclouds are piling up over the distant hills and I hope that we do not have to cycle in a storm. My tour organizer husband has told me that we are overnighting in a lovely hotel in the country. What he didn’t mention (and didn’t know) was that to reach it we have to cycle along a really busy highway with large trucks whistling by a few inches from my bike. I dismount and push my bike along a narrow grass verge for several kilometers swearing loudly. David has vanished up the road and I manage to run across the dreadful highway onto a lane that I hope leads to the hotel. It does but the “country” hotel is on the same highway I left, and it is near a factory that employs 2000 people making auto parts … I am not exactly happy. Luckily the manager dissipates some of my fury. He is young, very helpful and very proud of his hotel. He apprenticed in hotel management in Regensburg at the same hotel/beer garden we ate at the previous evening. He worked on cruise ships for a while and learnt several languages before returning to manage this hotel in his home village. I ask if he can find us a route that does not involve a hellish highway back to the Danube and to Deggendorf where we will catch a river boat to Passau tomorrow. Later he knocks on the door with a map of a route that takes country roads to rejoin the bike path.

Thursday June 6th

The manager’s route is wonderful … it passes immaculate farms, no junky ploughs and tractors laying around the farmyards here, and neatly cut verges. David had originally calculated 40 kilometers to Deggendorf but thankfully it is only 22 and we are soon at the outskirts of town. Unfortunately between us and the dock is a 2 km path of large loose gravel. Understandably leery of gravel I dismount much to David’s dismay. “Hurry up or we’ll miss the boat!” He shouts. We don’t of course and board along with a hundred 80 year old widows or at least I assume they are widows as there a few men.

Cruising to Passau

Initially there’s little traffic on the river but then we start passing mostly Belgian flagged barges pushing their way against the current. Outside Passau we slow and stop. The lock is catering to upriver traffic. In fact it is catering to one craft; an incredibly long floating river hotel flying a Swiss flag. It resembles a crocodile.

Lock closed
Lock opening

Soon we head into the lock along with two barges and 40 minutes later we are opposite the town and disembarking. Three rivers meet in Passau. The “blue” Danube and the “black” Inn (both definitely muddy green at the moment), and the smaller Ilz. Its a pretty town, the last before Austria, that was rebuilt by master Italian architects after a devastating fire in the 17th century and it has a light and frothy Italian look.

Pigeons at Residenz Square
Saint-Stephan’s cathedral, Passau

Later we walk across the Inn on our way to dinner. The river is racing under the bridge; it more than doubles the water volume of the Danube.

Bridge over the Inn

After an excellent dinner outdoors with a fine view of Passau we head back thankful for hotel umbrellas as large thunderstorm drops of rain are starting to fall.

Passau cheesecake

Vengeful Gods

Tessa here: Its getting hot by the time we finish breakfast and the bike checks so we are late leaving Gunzburg. By the time we enter Dillingen, 30 kms away, it is close to 86F. It is a large town filled with impressive buildings, frothy houses and tall towers but architecture is not as important right now as a big bottle of cold water. A cafe appears and duly refreshed we hit the road again. I’m grousing as apart from the path when we left Ulm we have seen little of the Danube and now David leads us to a main road with a bike path beside it. Fortunately it is easy biking but not what I signed up for! However when we finally reach Donauworth my mood lifts. Its a very attractive small town with the old part on an island in the middle of the Wornitz river just before it reaches the Danube.

Donauworth view

But its SO hot. A beer helps and a late afternoon breeze comes up so by the time we head out for dinner we are feeling cooler. We decide to eat in the Indian restaurant opposite the hotel. I had assumed that in Germany I would have to eat schnitzel everyday but no, in the three days that we’ve been here we’ve eaten in places owned by Greeks and Sicilians and now we are eating at a restaurant owned by Punjabis; and it is one of the best Indian meals we’ve had! Our young Punjabi waiter has arrived in this small town via Italy and is here as a relative owns the restaurant. He is happy, he says, to be earning enough to support his family, his wife has just had a baby, and to be able to rent a small house. He has no ambition to make a lot of money or own a business. The young woman who checks us out of the hotel the next morning has similar sentiments. She had gone to USA, married a person of color as she put it, and returned to Donauwirth, her birthplace, as she found America too expensive. “Here,” she says, “the taxes I pay mean that my children can go to school and eventually university and to the doctor without additional cost. They can run and play in the streets without fear. The townspeople accept us, a mixed race family, without prejudice. I am happy to have returned!”

We know Monday will be a long day, 70 kms, but I am happy as it is mostly, according to David’s map, along unpaved bike paths alongside the Danube. The river flows fast. It is a murky green and appears devoid of life; we have not even seen a fisherman on its banks. But the birdsong and the serenades of the enamoured bull frogs are deafening even if we cannot see them. In fact the only animal I have seen is a large hare lolloping through a hayfield. We leave the river and cycle past fields of ripening barley and rapeseed. Every so often the farmyard smell of silage and manure assail the nostrils but more often it is the fresh and familar scent of new mown hay. Back to the river and the path takes a sharp turn. Two Scots whom we have met along the way suddenly reappear. “There are no signs anywhere!” they say. David goes ahead and by the process of elimination takes a path through a village.

Nesting stork

Bicycle signs reappear and they are pointing up a very steep hill and there has been no mention of hills by my husband. It is hotter than the day before and by the time we push the bikes up for a good twenty minutes and into a wood all four of us are parched. Our water is getting low and we are still heading up. I had noticed a sign in German back by the river and the only words I had understood were “werk” and “polder”; obviously more dykes and wetlands are being constructed and we are on a bypass. We come out of the wood and joy, the path goes down. Our Scottish friends, both younger and faster, disappear. We reach the village at the bottom and after a short pedal along the Danube we arrive in Ingolstadt.

Crossing the bridge at Ingollstadt

Its 1 pm and the schools have just finished for the day. The town is swarming with attractive young people all noticeably skinnier than their American counterparts. They are on bikes, in the cafes, all over the sidewalks, at the bus stops … its impossible to move but then on the opposite side of the road I spy a shaded restaurant. We park the bikes, sit down with relief and a waiter appears … and he is Punjabi! We explain we don’t want much to eat but we do want water, a lot of it. He is quite amazed by our ability to down 3 liters but suggests we should at least try the soup and maybe some samosas. And so we eat Indian food for the second time in less than 24 hours. We buy another two liters for the road and David, after looking at the bill, says its the most expensive water he has ever paid for, €5 a bottle, but without doubt the most worthwhile! There are still another 30 kms to go before we get to Vohburg and our hotel. Back to the Danube and to a direct track that leads there. It is partially shaded by trees and the light headwind cools us as we ride but it is still infernally hot. The path is bumpy and and slow so that it is with relief that we finally see the bridge we have to cross into Vohburg. But the gods see fit to launch one last thunderbolt; coming off the dyke down a short slope covered in gravel David’s bike sideslips and he falls, luckily, into the grass. No damage, just a shock, and it is with much relief that we reach our hotel finally at 6:30. A long cool shower, a not very good pasta at an Italian cafe owned by a Napolitano and finally bed. What a day!

Tuesday June 4th

We manage an early start but the gods are not done with us yet. David has placed my saddle bag a little too far forward and when I mount the bike my foot catches the bag and over the bike goes … luckily I stay upright. This obviously infuriates the gods, as rounding a bend on the gravel path the bike hits a particularly large stone and in an instant my handlebars are at a 90 degree angle to the frame and over I go. Luckily I was not going fast but falling on gravel at any speed is bad news for skin. My elbow is now bereft of a large patch of it and an angry red in colour. It appears that with all the bumping on gravel paths the last few days the screws that secure the handlebars to the frame had loosened so, a note to the bike mechanic, check all screws after riding the Danube dyke paths! But the deities are still not finished. I proceed along the path quite gingerly at first but soon get back to my usual 18 kph. Then, after a couple of hours I slow just as the bottom screw on my water bottle holder loosens and it starts flailing around. A little later going up a ramp I cannot get my foot detached from the pedal just as my seat decides to make a 90 degree swivel! Off I fall again but do no damage.

Hops near bikepath
Danube Gorge, no bike path here

David has planned to catch a train the last 30 km to Regensberg but I had thought to ride it alone but now … no way! I will leave it to David to record the pleasanter aspects of the ride today!

Across for our Goliath Hotel on Goliath Street

Street in Regensburg Old Town
Regensburg Cathedral from Beer Garden

David writing: When I assembled the bicycles in Frankfurt, I tightened Tessa’s handlebar screws as tight as I could. Tessa’s description doesn’t do justice to the many jaring sections of the tracks atop the dikes along the Danube. One really should use broader, cushier (and therefore slower) tires. It is truly lucky that when the handlebar screws became completely loose and her front wheel turned sideways Tessa was riding at a slow speed. Otherwise she would have had a catastrophic accident.

One screw for Tessa’s water bottle is stripped and the other one loosened from the vibration. Tessa’s bike seat was as tight as possible, so it must have suffered a huge force when her bike fell. Lesson: On gravelly, stony bike paths, check the screws frequently!

While Tessa loves the endless Danube, I much prefer the towns. The old town of Regensburg, where we are now, espccially beautiful. Bicycles, mainly carrying students, criss-cross everywhere, far outnumbering cars; We’re in a very comfortable elevator and air conditioning-equipped hotel. Dinner in a beer garden faced the lacy towers of the gothic Regensburg cathedral; Tessa’s lamb chops and my Danube River catfish were both highly delicious.

A few miscellaneous comments: First, the portions of food and drink are enormous everywhere – at least as large as in the USA, and the waistlines and faces of most older Germans show it. Second, the bike route seems to be constantly changed; the “completely up to date” bike maps that I bought a year ago and carry atop my handlebar bag have often been wrong. Third, our water consumption: about a gallon and one-half a day each. And the weather was predicted – a couple of days ahead to be cold and rainy!

The best laid plans

David writing: I think readers know that I plan in December in great detail our yearly bicycle trip – which bank of the Danube to ride on, which maps, (not being in the GPS-guided era), which hotels or b&bs, and so on. Hotels often sell out. Passanger seats and bicycle places on German trains sell out completely.

To test our bikes, in mid-May Tessa and I rode an easy and beautiful path along the Italian River of Flowers. All went well, but a week later I biked to Nice and, while wending my way through crowded streets to the railway station, I noted that I could barely get on and off the bike! I’ve shrunk another inch in the last two years and am also less flexible. I quickly realized that I would never be able to mount and dismount when the bike was fully laden! I needed a lower bike and and this was in 9 days!

In the south of France few people bicycle-tour so to find a touring bike was practically impossible. But I was fortunate! One store in Nice, 45 minutes away, had a bike that might do, but it was too small so the owner, after measuring my arms and legs, ordered one from Germany. Miraculously it arrived on Tuesday; we leave crack of dawn on Friday. I test it on the Promenade des Anglais and buy it. Once home I change tires and tubes, move the trip computer, adjust the saddle bag straps, take the spring clip off the carrier, and try to mount handlebar brackets – except that the handlebars are oversized. No bike store in our area carries clips to mount my handlebar bag.

On Wednesday I remove the handlebars, front fenders, and pedals from both bikes and Tessa helps cut two cartons to size and tape them. Lufthansa will only carry bikes in boxes and the taxi that will take us to the airport can only take small ones. Somehow we squash the bikes in. Amazingly we are now packed and almost ready. In the late afternoon a friend arrives to babysit Kuma, the Schipperke, and Thursday is spent issuing house and dog instructions and packing last minute items.

Friday is May 31. The taxi appears at 5:00 am as planned, but the boxes are an inch too long and the rear seats won’t fold down. Tessa rides to the airport seated on a bike box.

In Frankfurt we deplane and are in the luggage claim at 9:10. Our train to Ülm in the adjacent train station leaves at 11:08. Don’t you think that 2 hours would be enough to assemble bikes and board them on a train? I did.

The luggage belt stops and everyone but us leaves the baggage claim area. Our checked saddle bags aren’t there. A very helpful service lady asks for our baggage checks, but I cannot find them. She goes to see if she can find something in their computer. Meanwhile, having wasted 20 minutes, I start assembling the bicycles. Our saddle bags suddenly appear on the belt! In an hour the bikes are ready and loaded, but now we have only half-an-hour to make our train.

The lady’s directions to the RR station with a bike are confusing, “Go out the door, cross the street, take the elevator up.” We cannot even find the door to take but another helpful person indicates it. We cross several roadways but see no signs for an elevator. We eventually find it in the parking garage. After pushing the “up” button for five minutes (the RR station, confusingly is five floors up) with no results we try the “down” button. Success! An elevator appears and starts up to the 8th floor, stopping to let on others who cannot fit. We now have 10 minutes to train departure. The railway station appears to be far distant down endless corridors. We start running if crab-like jogging guiding a bike is running. We reach the station and find the sign for the track. Three minutes to go. The elevator down to the track is broken!

Ignoring “do not take bikes on escalator” signs I take my bike down the two lengthy ones and Tessa follows. The train is there, leaving in a minute, but we are at car 12 and we must, train officials make clear, board in car 1. We run down the platform. Time runs out. And, guess what, they hold the train for us.

Dripping in sweat (I forgot to mention that the temperature is a record breaking 27C not the 16C forecast) we slump down opposite two older Germans who are heading for a bike tour in the German pre-Alps. After an interesting conversation we part ways in Ulm. At our hotel in the old part of town we find that the new owner no longer accepts bikes. We can’t leave our bikes in the street, we say. Finally, the receptionist agrees to let them stay in hall until morning.

Ülm: Vieew from our hotel breakfast room window

Ülm is a delightful city, but I must ride to a shopping mall in Neu (New) Ülm across the Danube. The bike store there sells clips for handlebar bags. One fits and I ride back to the hotel. Tessa and I, after a Greek dinner, do have a chance to stroll in the twilight along the Danube elevated promenade. Quite a day.

Ülm: View from our room

June 1st, today, a few more problems: Tessa’s brakes are far out of adjustment; my tire bumps with every rotation and I can’t fix it. We face a headwind. Despite maps and signs we get lost; it seems there are signs for different bicycle routes at every crossroad no matter how big or small. At a service station a man with a cell phone gets out of his car and helps us. We ride down an empty country lane and are almost back on our path, having taken a 5 km detour. An elderly couple on bikes sees us looking at our map, and offers to guide us to Gunzburg through the forest close to the Danube. The husband learns that I need a bicycle shop for my bump-bump tire and once in the outskirts of town he asks several people for directions to one. He goes far out of his way to lead us there before it closes at 2pm for the weekend. Once there he makes sure that the bike mechanic can understand English and then he and his wife leave to complete their 70 km loop back to their home.

Our guides in front of Leipheim castle

The bike shop makes three attempts to fix the bumping. The third is successful. We get good directions to our hotel, but twice ride by it. We end the day with a dinner of Argentine beef, perfectly cooked vegetables, and delicious wine in a Scicilian-German restaurant.

Outside our Gunzburg hotel. Once you’ve paid by credit card or cash your key for the front door and room drops into the slot.

Tessa here

A few comments and additions to David’s section of the blog so back to Frankfurt train station. I realised that Car 1 was the bicycle coach as there was a station guard in the distance waving frantically beside it. I reached it first but on looking back saw that David had tried to board a closer coach and had been told to get out and go to coach 1 by an irate guard; in Germany you do everything correctly and we were indeed lucky that no official saw us carrying our bikes down the escalators!

It is satisfying to be starting our next stage from Ulm, indeed from the same hotel we had stayed at two years ago. This area is called Fischer and is part of the medieval town that was not destroyed by Allied bombing in WWII. While David is visiting the bike store I decide to have a beer and lunch at the pub next to the hotel. After looking at the food piled on the plates of other diners I opt for a “sparrow” sized salad which is still too big. The sparrow is Ulm’s symbol. Apparently an enormous beam was needed for the construction of the Minster, Ulm’s magnificent 14th century cathedral, but the builders could not get it through a city gate. They were about to tear the gate down when someone noticed a sparrow with a straw in its beak. To get it into its nest the bird turned the straw from cross-wise to length-wise. The laborers had an “Aha!” moment, and for saving the city gate the sparrow has been celebrated ever since. Sparrow images and carvings are everywhere!

The next morning we rise early to get an early start on what is promising to be a really hot day. Not to be; by the time David finishes all the adjustments and repairs to the bikes it is almost 10:30.

Thankfully our way to Gunzburg is mostly through the woods beside the Danube but the city is hot and the hotel hotter. I am thankful that I threw a couple of extra T shirts into my bags as the forecast I read in France a day before our departure had predicted rain with temperatures below 15C!

2,537.4 kms to the Black Sea